With the release of their 2017 homeless count, municipalities across Metro Vancouver are speaking out about how the federal and provincial government can combat the growing housing crisis.
The count found that there has been a 30 per cent rise in homelessness across the region since 2014, something that Mike Clay, Chair of Metro Vancouver’s Housing Committee says is indicative of the widespread nature of the problem.
He spoke to Simi Sara about the count’s findings on Monday.
Clay says the numbers prove the homelessness crisis isn’t just a Downtown Eastside problem.
“We’re seeing huge growth in homelessness in areas outside of Vancouver, and this is going to continue to happen if we don’t find new ways of putting the brakes on and helping people get into housing.”
The count found a total of 3,605 homeless people living in the region, a number Clay says may even be on the lower end.
He says that due to colder winter weather, many of those missed by the tally may have sought out temporary housing.
“These are always an undercount, and though they’re always an indicator… we still think that even 3,600 is a low number.”
Clay also serves as the mayor of Port Moody, a role he says gives him an insight into how cities are trying to deal with the crisis.
While the municipality accounts for a fraction of the count’s grand total, it still saw a twice-fold increase in homelessness since 2014.
He says that cities like Port Moody can only do so much to stop that rising number.
“We’re not going to turn a blind eye to people slipping through the cracks in our community, we want to help them, but we want the federal and provincial governments to step up as well.”
Making a concerted effort requires looking at the root causes of homelessness, Clay says.
“It’s great if we can get some people at least some temporary relief, but we really need to get these people into housing and into a lifestyle that supports them better and supports our communities better.”
Along with the count, Metro Vancouver released 12 recommendations for the provincial and federal governments.
A key recommendation is increasing the amount of affordable housing in Metro Vancouver – the group predicts that the region will require 60,000 affordable rental units by 2027.
Clay says many of those counted were forced out of their homes by rising housing prices, as those in the middle class were pushed into lower income housing and those with lower income were pushed onto the streets.
Other recommendations include additional funding for poverty reduction and mental health.
He says making changes around those recommendations will do a lot to combat the growing number of homeless.
“That’s where we want to see the government is really looking, at those contributors, where homelessness is a symptom of something else that’s gone wrong in their life.”
He hopes releasing those recommendations in the lead-up to the May 9 provincial election will encourage parties making election bids to address the ongoing issue.
“It’s a growing problem, it’s not going away, and we can’t just pretend that it isn’t there.”